What Augusta criminals used to call jail, dogs and cats now call home.
The CSRA Humane Society on Sunday celebrated the grand opening of its pet adoption and education center, located at what was once the Augusta Stockade at 425 Wood Street near Lake Olmstead.
Volunteers and animal lovers gathered outside the renovated building, first blessing the animals, then cutting a ceremonial ribbon. Augusta Mayor Bob Young issued a proclamation to mark the day.
Cats and dogs likely will enjoy the new facility more than its previous occupants.
At full capacity, the converted jail can hold 40 dogs and 60 cats, CSRA Humane Society President Raynette Mayersaid. About 20 dogs and 35 cats are in the shelter now.
The new shelter has been in use since February. The Humane Society has a five-year property lease, which started Dec. 31. The group is leasing the structure from the city for $1 a year, Ms. Mayer said, adding it would be run on private donations.
Ms. Mayer said the jail made for a good home because its cells were built in a "dormitory" formation, providing needed space for the animals. Humane Society volunteers renovated the jail, with Augusta's Knox Foundation providing money for the project.
The new housing comes at a needed time. The Richmond County Animal Control shelter has been under quarantine since July 24, when a dog was found to have distemper, a disease that attacks the respiratory and central nervous systems. There's no cure for the airborne disease.
With the Richmond County shelter under quarantine, many stray animals have been taken to the Columbia County animal shelter, which in turn saw its facility become overcrowded.
Richmond County officials are using a foster program where a home keeps one or two dogs for three weeks. After the three weeks, healthy-looking dogs are returned to the shelter. Dogs that look sick are tested for distemper.
Officials said that without any more outbreaks of the disease the quarantine should be lifted soon. A Georgia Department of Agriculture inspector will visit the shelter Wednesday. If the adoption area is approved for reopening, it will be another week before dogs go out.
"This is another way to help the community out without adding to the taxpayers' burden," Ms. Mayer said of the new facility. "Obviously, the pets that are turned in here will not be turned over to animal control. So, any pets that we can shelter here and then adopt out are just fewer pets they (Richmond County Animal Control employees) have to deal with."
Ms. Mayer said the Humane Society and Richmond County Animal Control had not reached an agreement, adding that anything the two groups did together would be "down the road."
Animals brought to the new Humane Society facility are quarantined for 10 to 14 days. All animals are vaccinated immediately.
Of changes made to the jail structure, a quarantine area was the largest and most extensive, Ms. Mayer said.
"With procedure we have in place and being vigil about maintaining it, we can do a lot to minimize an animal's exposure to anything harmful," she said.
Reach Josh Gelinas at (706) 823-3218.